Hi! My name is Karin Åkesdotter and I’m from Gothenburg, Sweden (follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, and visit my blog!) I have been crafting for as long as I can remember, driving my mum crazy with new ideas all the time – paper crafts of all kinds, designing and sewing projects, knitting, ceramics, lacemaking etc. Always making a mess and having her help me even though I’d promised I would manage on my own. Art, needlework, woodwork and home economics were of course my favorite subjects in school.
My love for watercoloring started when I was 19 and went to Lexington, Massachussets to work as an AuPair through the AuPair in America program. Through the program each Au Pair got to take a class of their choice for free, and I picked Watercolor. I was lucky to get a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Norma Regillo who was the Art teacher at Lexington High School. We were a group of 15 people from the area, men, women, young and old, who met every Tuesday evening, and for each class, Mrs. Regillo would have prepared a new subject with new techniques for us to learn.
She would paint a painting from start to finish during class and we would copy her process and create our own versions of that painting. We learnt everything from what colors would make successful mixes and washes for skies etc. to how to paint a snow storm or create texture for the bark of Birch trees. Before the class ended she would go through everyone’s paintings with all of us to look, both at what was successful but also at things that weren’t so good and how we could avoid them next time. I learnt so much and will forever be grateful to her for sharing her talent and knowledge with us.
I continued to paint when I returned to Sweden but didn’t have a lot of time because at the same time I was accepted for the teacher program at Gothenburg University. I majored in Arts and Craft (Surprise!) with focus on textiles and have now been teaching needlework at Ytterby Highschool for 18 years. I absolutely love my work and my students. Needlework and woodwork are compulsory subjects for both boys and girls and we work with lots of different materials and techniques but I also teach the design process, color theory, recycling and sustainable environment. I am challenged every day to guide and help my students find solutions to put their ideas and designs into reality. Their creativity and their thought that nothing is impossible are so inspiring!
Over the years, I would take out my paints now and then, mostly on excursions to the archipelago, which is my favorite subject for painting, but if I left my comfort zone, I would often be disappointed with the results because I felt I’d lost the feeling for it. I had no real audience for my work and except for a “My favorite summer spot” challenge hosted by Winsor & Newton that I entered (and won) at my local art store In-ex, it was hard to find motivation to paint.
Then came blogging and I discovered the world of cardmaking. The cardmaking community is a wonderful and surprisingly large, and constantly expanding, group of very supportive and creative women (and a few men) from all over the world who share their designs with each other. Best of all, there are also lots of card making challenges you can enter. There is usually a subject, color theme, sketch, picture collage or technique to follow and interpret and this is a spark to my creativity.
I did well in challenges and soon got the chance to be on the design teams for some of the large stamp companies in the industry. I absolutely love to get a new product and see what can be done with it – can it be used in other ways than the obvious? What happens if I use it with this or that technique? etc. I got visitors to my blog who saw what I made and there was a new inspiring reason to craft. I was in heaven.
Over the years, watercoloring has become a very popular part/ technique in card making and I soon realized how much I missed painting. So, three years ago, I gave myself a New Year’s resolution – I would start painting more regularly again and to motivate myself I set up a feature on my blog called Sunday Watercolor. I “promised” my followers I would have a new painting to share every Sunday. In the beginning, it was really tough because I would have quite high expectations of the outcome. I knew how I wanted to paint and how I had been able to paint earlier. I got frustrated and threw a lot away, but then decided to share the process and with support from my wonderfully sweet followers and bloggie friends I continued and managed to complete my year. I didn’t feel “back on track,” but at least on my way there.
During the school term it is hard for me to find time, motivation and energy to paint, but as soon as summer break started this year, I knew I wanted to try to find my way back. I just needed something to motivate myself and remembered I had seen some artists do something called a 30-day challenge last year and started googling it. I still can’t believe my luck when I discovered Charlie’s Doodlewash page and the World Watercolor Month initiative! – And it was only the 3rd of July when I did, so there was still lots of time to play along.
This was exactly what I needed – prompts to tackle and an audience to share my work with and a whole group of super talented artists to inspire me! I just couldn’t be happier! BIG, BIG Thank You and hugs to Charlie and to all the members of the Facebook Group! As soon as I visit the group, I want to try something new, a new technique a new subject or a new take on something I just painted. I just wish there were more hours to the day.
My favorite subject is landscape painting and I love to paint en plein air, especially when we go out on day trips to the archipelago (Gothenburg is on the beautiful west coast of Sweden) but more because it is so relaxing than because of the outcome of the paintings… Some paintings are started as plein air and then finished off at my desk at home. Most often, what I do is that I collect sketches, colors or color combos from the places we visit – material that I can use later together with my photo references when I paint at my desk.
When I start a painting I tape my paper to a board and make a light sketch with a hard pencil. My drawing is never very detailed because I want to achieve a looser look and not be too restricted to my drawings. This is something I constantly try to work on and have found that the best way for me to practice it, is to paint without any preliminary sketches or drawings at all, and on paper I don’t care too much about – like the backside of a failed painting. Earlier, I would practice or try to be bold and loose on cheaper paper but not any longer because I’ve realized that part of getting to be a better painter is to know how your paints behave and how they behave on the paper you use.
The papers I use are Arches cold pressed fine or rough 140lb (300 grs) or Fabriano Artistico 140lb (300 grs) that I buy as full sheets and cut to different sizes. My paints are from Winsor & Newton and my favorite colors on my palette are: French Ultramarine, Burnt Umber, Raw and Burnt Sienna, Aerolin, Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin Crimson, and Payne’s Grey. I also want to mention Viridian Green and Prussian Blue because I use them for mixing my grays and greens.
I mostly use pans, because I think they last longer, more paint for my money, and they are easier to carry along and faster to start using, but I have most colors in tubes too. When I use tube colors I will often put the paint on top of my pan colors in my palette so that if there’s some paint left when I’m done it can dry there and it isn’t wasted. To keep them nice and vivid, I always buy my yellows in tubes though, because I mix my own greens and therefore my yellows tend to get dirty quite quickly.
The brushes I use are Winsor & Newton and Da Vinci round 6, 8 and 10 and a rigger for branches and grass. I own other types of brushes too, but for some reason they often remain dry.
I love trying new products or material for inspiration but seldom use them in my paintings. Masking fluid for example is great if you want to go loose with a background or so and not having to worry about covering what you want to leave white, but I try to avoid using it because I think it leaves harder edges, that can look a bit strange, than if I try to just paint around the areas I want white. But the actual reason I don’t use any other products than my paints and brushes is because I forget to, because when I finally find time or inspiration I’m too eager to start painting.
Layering transparent watercolors is one of the most beautiful parts in a watercolor, but also the hardest for me to do well since it takes a lot of patience, which I lack. Therefore, I often work on two paintings at the same time – to give the paintings a chance to dry before I’m there with my next layer/color. Something I constantly have to remind myself is to stop in time, before a painting looks overworked. Often I’ve been interrupted by something toward the end of a painting and have been forced to leave it and when I come back later to finish it, I’ve realized that no more actually needs to be done to it.
Artists I admire are Lars Lerin – he’s simply an amazing watercolor artist and a wonderful person, Nina Johansson – how I’d love to be able to urban sketch like her. And Brenda Swenson, Hazel Soan and Sterling Edwards for their amazing talent – absolutely adore their work – but also because they share their painting processes so generously on the internet.